Stephen Rochford: ‘We keep being written off but we’ll keep coming back’
The Mayo manager believes there’s more to come from his side in two weeks
Mayo’s Colm Boyle flies through the air as he clashes with Dublin’s John Small in the All-Ireland final at Croke Park. Boyle was unfortunate enough to score one of the two own goals that Mayo conceded in the first half to keep a misfiring Dublin in the game.
There was a time when the concession of two odd goals by Mayo in an All-Ireland final would have signalled a funereal quiet and a long, unhappy afternoon. Yet when Andy Moran sat down to review that early calamity for his team, he explained it away.
“I think they were two goals and no points for a long period of time. There is a logic that you can take from that as well.
“We were probably more concerned with the way we were playing ourselves. Even at half time we weren’t happy . . . our transitional play wasn’t great from back to front, we probably weren’t offering ourselves in the full-forward line enough. It was tough conditions. And as Stephen said you can make a lot of excuses.
“But we have the theory that we can compete against anyone and we came out in the second half and showed that.”
Out in the corridor, Lee Keegan flung his bag into the bus and stopped to give his assessment before heading up to the players’ lounge.
“We had a lot of turnovers: I think we had 17 turnovers in the first half against them, so from that point of view defensively we did very well. We probably have to feel we coughed up some soft possession.
“I think we were dwelling on the ball a couple of times, some silly hand-passes and kick-passes which gave them incentive. The two goals were probably a bit of a disaster but they are what they were.
Belief in the squadDublin
“I know it’s not what we wanted or what Dublin wanted but it’s something at the end of the day. We have to kick on big time now in the next 13 days and look forward to another cracking game.”
This was less than an hour after the final whistle of a surreal, topsy-turvy game. The response of both Mayo players was indicative of just how quickly the squad absorbed the post-game message from Stephen Rochford. There was no dallying on what might have been because that is simply pointless.
Already, the review -and-move-on process has begun. Tony McEntee was a prominent figure on the sideline with Rochford and despite those two goals and the handling errors, Mayo did so much right.
They mapped the Dublin runners and stunted the champions’ brilliant attack. They competed in terms of strength and speed. They didn’t play the occasion. They fought back. But: “We have won nothing,” Rochford points out flatly.
Still, they might have lost another All-Ireland final out there?
“Yeah. We could have. But it is half-time. I wouldn’t be happy with the way we made our periods of possession dominance count on the scoreboard. Both teams feel they have things they can improve on. And we will see what happens in two weeks. So we will circle the wagons and get our heads down.
“If the question is aiming towards the character of the group: that would have been there if we had won or lost. There is plenty of character in the group and I expect the boys to get their heads down. There is a lot of desire in the group. I said it to the boys inside: put up your hand if you felt you had your best game today. There was nobody putting their hand up.”
Rochford was unable to shed any light on the mini-rumble which broke out after both teams took to the field, jostling their way to the photographers bench before departing.
“We were detailed to come out second. I think we went out a minute after we were supposed to. Just in case anyone is going to look into it: coincidental. Nothing went into it. These things happen, so ye can all nail that on the head.”
It was about the only thing that could be nailed down on a day of lurching emotions from Mayo. It is never dull, following the green and red. Last word, then, to Andy Moran on where they stand today, the All-Ireland final over and the All-Ireland dream still alive.